l’Escalade – Part One – Course de l’Escalade

3 Dec

The History

On the night of December 11, 1602, Duke Charles Emmanuel of Savoy attacked Geneva by surprise after walking from La Roche and Haute-Savoie. There were more than two thousand men on foot and horseback and they arrived in Plainpalais, just outside the old city walls. Awoken from their slumber, the citizens of Geneva, the militia and the city guards seized their weapons to fight the enemy.

In a number of places the fighting was fierce and many a heroic act was performed. As the cannon roared, the Savoyard army, driven back, was forced to flee. In the morning, the Genevans, who had lost eighteen of their fellow citizens, gathered in the churches to give thanks to God for having saved them from such grave danger.

The Festivities


Saturday 1st December 2012

Each year, on the first Saturday in December, the most popular sporting event in Geneva takes place in the old town – The Escalade Race. Some say it is to commemorate the French running away… I’ll leave it to you to ponder. This year over 30,000 runners were signed up. This event is for everyone – famous international runners to beginners, children and adults alike. Distances run vary from 2kms to 8 kms depending on the category and include 1, 2 or 3 laps of the old town, along the narrow streets, and finish in Parc des Bastions.

This is such a fun race and a great day out. The women run 2 laps of the old town, a total of approximately 4.7km and the men run 3 laps totalling approximately 7.2km. Both the hubby and I ran in this race last year and were very keen to do it again this year – with better times of course! The day is extremely well organised and feels a more like a major running event rather than a local fun run; there’s a little expo with all things sporting related and racks of shiny running pants and jackets to eat into your wallet, there are carnival rides and fairy floss (cotton candy) for the kids, and there is hot wine and crêpes for the more mature spectators (and post-run recovery!).

The start times were staggered with participants grouped by gender and age. My category was Femmes I (20-29 years) and the race scheduled for 1pm. It was barely 2 degrees above freezing, the DJ was blasting Gangham Style over the speakers and the Geneva Seahawks were holding back the anxious runners. I started a fair way down the pack and spent most of the first lap being elbowed, squashed and blocked but finally found some space amongst the 1,100 women on the second lap ~*mental note to get closer to the front next year! There’s a few steep-ish hills in the old town (as you can maybe see in the photo) but the good thing about going uphill (and probably the ONLY good thing about an uphill climb) is the downhill that follows! The course ends with a nice bit of downhill and then a straight sprint to the finish line, an opportunity to pick up the pace and knock off a few more seconds (and fellow competitors!!).

2662  IMG_0399  3102

After my race, I joined some work colleagues and watched the men’s race. I knew a few people who were running but trying to spot them amongst more than 1,500 runners in the dark (and after a few “vin chaud”) was almost impossible. Even with the men running 3 laps of the course, we only managed to spot our work colleagues on the first lap and my man on his second lap.

At the end of the day the results were good all round. I finished in 131st place with a time of 23:22 – 90 seconds faster than 2011 and Sammy placed 99th with a time of 29:30 – also 90 seconds faster than the year before. Gotta be happy with that!

Next weekend is the Historical Parade so stay tuned for Part Two.

One Response to “l’Escalade – Part One – Course de l’Escalade”


  1. Post-Marathon Running | Cheese & Vegemite - October 24, 2013

    […] the Escalade and the associated race around the Geneva Old Town last year which you can read about here and […]

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